[Advaita-l] Thanks [Was some questions on dharma]

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sat Oct 28 22:30:11 CDT 2006

>Could you tell me why the tradition (advaita vEdAnta and others) supports
>bhIShma in this regard. From the pros/cons presented in my previous mail,
>the case seems to go against bhIShma. Also, are there any standard
>traditional authorities/books on the interpretation of such moral issues in
>the advaita vEdAnta tradition?

To my knowledge, these sorts of questions are not even discussed in any 
detail by traditional advaita vedAnta teachers. The question of supporting 
bhIshma or criticizing him does not arise. Two different advaitins can have 
very different personal opinions and evaluations of bhIshma's conduct. It is 
easier for vaishNavas to say that all who fought on the side of duryodhana 
were being adharmic, although I suspect that different vaishNava sampradAya 
leaders will have different views on this. However, I doubt if SrI kRshNa 
himself would have said so.

After all, when duryodhana and arjuna both arrived simultaneously, asking 
for his support, why did he give them a choice between the yAdava army and 
himself (and only in a non-combative capacity)? Even if he knew beforehand 
that duryodhana would choose the army, his offer of a choice meant that he 
wilfully offered up his army to the side of adharma.

Personally, I don't agree that kRshNa offers a different view of dharma than 
what was in practice before. One might as well say, and with better textual 
justification, that it is yudhishThira, not kRshNa, who offers a very 
different view of dharma. There is at least one episode in the mahAbhArata, 
where he says, "if I do a thing, how can it be anything but dharma?" Not so 
with kRshNa. He offers long explanations, teaches and advises.

Our only sources for what was the dharma being practised in those times are 
the epics themselves and the corpus of vedic texts. The mahAbhArata, and 
specifically the gItA, do not say anything radically different about dharma 
or moksha than what is found scattered across the various upanishad texts. 
In fact, Krishna's first line of response to Arjuna asks him to stand up and 
be true to his traditional kshatriya dharma and fight the righteous war. It 
is the dharma of the king to rule and to fight, and it is the dharma of the 
hunter to hunt. Both kinds of dharma involve violence, applied in a 
regulated manner, informed by certain norms of society and tradition. It is 
extremely simplistic to think that a farmer is more dhArmic than a hunter, 
because the farmer does not kill animals in a violent fashion. Well, what 
about the killing of the insects and other pests, to protect the crop? That 
is violence too. A vegetarian may not eat meat, but does not hesitate to 
kill a rat or a cockroach if he finds one in his home. As human beings 
involved in vyavahAra, every one of us is part of nature, red in tooth and 
claw. Absolute non-violence is an ideal; the reality falls far short. 
Similarly, absolute right and absolute wrong are ideal ends of a spectrum. 
Every human act falls in between, and is tinged with both, to varying 


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